Wednesday, 4 May 2016

May Open Thread: Help and Criticism

If the first thread of the writing salon is anything to go by, we are going to have a lot of talk upcoming about people’s ideas. Thus the topic: what are some tips you have both for giving feedback on ideas and for being the person receiving feedback?


  1. If possible, there's an old editor's phrase (I think it's an editor's thing) that goes, "think with your pen." Basically meaning that everything you think of you should note down in the notes of what you're reading. With digital stuff I guess it's more like "think with your keyboard."

    It helps authors to know every little thought that comes to your mind, even if they're just little things like, "this is the bit that interests me the most," or "I don't quite understand this."

  2. I think an important note, no matter what side you are on the issue, is that text is an imperfect communication method. If you think someone is being mean that probably isn’t their intention. Intent is hard to show in text.

    These comments also focus on comments in the development stage, beta testing would be different.

    All comments are my opinion (and what I try and follow when I’ve helped out on projects) and others may disagree.

    For people giving comments:
    -Understand that it isn’t your work. You may spend time crafting detailed advice, but the author may ignore it. It’s ultimately their work which means they know where they ultimately want to go with it.
    -Likewise, realize you may receive pushback. You might propose an idea (‘hey, it sounds like you are using too many rooms, that will make it more complicated to code’) that seems reasonable to you, but that gets pushback (‘I feel that having a lot of rooms makes the AIF feels more real’). From here you can either agree (‘oh yeah, I see what you’re going for’), disagree (‘I understand, but there are easier ways to accomplish that’), or agree to disagree (‘ah, that isn’t what I would go for, but okay’). Back and forth can make the comments much more helpful.
    -Try and gauge what the author is asking for help on. If they are on the concept stage don’t try and nail them down to an idea if that isn’t where they want to be.
    -Some things don’t want to be changed. If the author is dead set on making a game in a high school, and you hate games in a high school, don’t try and talk them out of it once they’ve made their point clear (I’m not saying you can’t bring it up, but once an author says they want to do something arguing is counterproductive).
    -This one might be controversial, but don’t become involved with ideas you hate. Not every AIF is meant for every player. If a work is going to have content you can’t stand, trying to change that is not helpful to anyone.

    For people receiving comments:
    -People giving comments might not be clear on what you intend to do. It is hard to explain concepts in detail, so misunderstandings are normal. If someone’s feedback sounds like it is referring to something very different than what you intended, just politely correct the error.
    -Be clear on what isn’t up for change. If someone is trying to convince you to change/adapt an idea and you are set on that being part of your game, make that clear. Having a discussion when you won’t change is a waste of your and their time.
    -Most of your comments will be negative (things that can be better). Even if someone loves your idea there are only so many ways to say ‘this is a great idea’. Don’t become discouraged because it suddenly seems like there are a lot of problems you hadn’t anticipated.

    1. I was going to say pretty much what Archer said: On both sides, be aware that a suggestion is a suggestion. Don't feel bad if your idea to another author isn't implemented, and if someone gives you feedback that seems weird, do write it down and ruminate on it. Often the suggestion they give is more obliquely about something else unrelated that could fix the problem.

      When I wrote (non AIF) Baker of Shireton, I thought my complicated bread-making simulation was so much fun, but it proved to be a hassle for many players, and many suggested to get rid of it completely. (A game about baking without baking, I guess?) I simplified it a bit by removing one buggy element,and while the system was still purposefully tedious, when it worked correctly the players were more understanding about it.

  3. I have always thought It would be good that each authors would say what they wanted for their works if they quit the scene. It's not only if other fans decides to write a story in the same world or scenery, or if they can correct bugs or add something extra likes images to old works they have liked, always saying that it's a tribute and not for money or something similar, but also a simple thing, it's possible to repost the game when all the links are dead or not or if the author vanish so he wants that the same happen with his game ?

    1. Most authors don't assume that they will leave the scene until they drift off. It's much like how no one writes a will because they assume they're not going to die tomorrow...until they do. It's just an unfortunate nature of life.

      You also have to keep in mind that most authors have no fans. Even the authors with fans don't know they have fans because none of the fans email them or comment or anything. So an author would actually end up looking like a bit of an egomaniac if they were to add such a dedication to their works.

  4. Try to give both positive and negative feedback.

    Solely negative feedback can be disheartening and can leave the author believing that their game is beyond repair.

    Positive feedback is always welcome, but unless it's directed to what specific elements are working, it gives the author no clues as to how to improve their work.